The Baltimore Ravens feasted on cake and passed out cigars today as they basked in their 17-10 win against the Cleveland Browns. Even though it came against an 0-3 expansion team, the Ravens' first victory of the season was particularly sweet for owner Art Modell, who came under heavy fire for moving the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore four years ago.
Modell "felt very good about [the win]," Baltimore Coach Brian Billick said. "He liked what he saw. . . . He enjoyed it. He enjoyed the day. He enjoyed the fans."
What he probably didn't enjoy was watching his new quarterback throw three interceptions, one of which led to a Browns score. Stoney Case had a rocky debut as the Ravens' starting quarterback.
Case, who replaced Scott Mitchell during a loss to Pittsburgh and earned the starting job this past week, showed all the signs of a quarterback making just his second NFL start. He completed 12 of 25 passes for 165 yards and did not throw a touchdown pass, although he scored twice on one-yard runs.
Billick took some of the blame for Case's struggles.
"I probably put him in a couple situations [Sunday] that he may not be ready for just yet or he may not ever be ready for," Billick said. "I've got to identify that. It takes a little while sometimes.
"Hopefully, we can adjust as we go and win along the way. It will be fun if we do because this guy has some talent. The team's responding to it."
Both Billick and Case attributed the interceptions to forcing things and pressing too much. Two of Case's passes were picked off by linebackers, only one by a defensive back.
"I was definitely trying hard," Case said. "I wanted to win."
Billick was pleased overall with Case's performance but wants him to control his energy level and be more poised on the field.
"In almost all of those situations, he was trying to get the ball in there too quickly," Billick said. "He's got that quick release and he tends to think [he] can beat the defender with the throw, when in almost every situation he had, he needed to not try to beat the linebacker with the throw. He needed just a little more air on it."
Billick said those errors are correctable and didn't want too much emphasis placed on the number of interceptions Case throws.
"I think he will drop that ball [off] next time," Billick said. "That doesn't mean he's not going to throw an interception.
"What you can't do is get a quarterback to be so tentative that he doesn't throw anything. Now you're dead. We'll have to live with the interceptions. If we can educate him just a little bit that discretion is the better part of valor sometimes and take that high-profit dump-off to the back, then we'll have gotten better."
Billick is concerned about the Ravens' eight turnovers in three games, saying the defense was forced to operate from poor field position too often.
"Some way, some form, some shape, somehow, we've got to find a way not to put our defense on a short field," he said. "We're doing so many good things defensively . . . but we've got to find the secret to the turnovers."
Billick did like Case's mobility. When he was unable to find an open receiver, Case often tucked the ball and ran with it. He was the Ravens' second-leading rusher behind running back Errict Rhett, with 57 yards on 11 carries.
Case seemed eager to get back on the practice field, apply what he learned in the game and prepare for Sunday's game in Atlanta.
"One thing I haven't had in my NFL career is consistently getting repetitions," Case said.